Lamb Of God – Resolution (2012)

Posted: January 14, 2012 in Music

The hangover from the year that was 2011 still resonates in the heads of many of us. Half-eaten cheese logs sit mangled in the fridge, and champagne corks are still scattered amongst the floor. 2012 is here – but no one is really quite ready to embrace it.

I, for one, am still writing 2011 on my checks and losing track of the days as if the last few weeks were nothing but a blur. But it’s time to get back to business and look ahead to what is bound to be another monster year in music.

And what better way to kick things off than with one of the most highly anticipated albums of the year of the dragon. Virginia natives Lamb Of God are set to release their aptly-titled seventh studio release – Resolution – January 24th, and the metal world is abuzz .

And rightfully so. The band has built a legacy with quality releases, amazing live shows, and a brotherhood amongst band mates that is rarely seen in heavy metal these days. From their origins as Burn The Priest to the release of 2009’s Wrath, the band has continued to climb the ranks of todays modern metal heavyweights, getting louder, faster and stronger each step of the way.

Sure, naysayers tag them as nothing more than a Pantera rip-off – or slam the band for sounding ‘the same’ every time out, but nothing could be further from the truth. While the band does have a very ‘signature’ sound, they have covered the vast landscape of metal the best they can. They don’t fuck around with ballads or concept albums; they have simply punched their ticket to metal greatness with an ‘in-your-face’ attack of guitars, drums and growls that have pretty much left the competition in the dust.

One thing that has happened as the band has grown is a certain slickness to their production. This, too, has gathered a fair amount of discontent amongst fans – but attention to detail is something I have – and always will – admire. Do they get a bit too perfect from time to time? Sure. But beneath all the glossy production is a talent level in songwriting and musicianship that most bands only dream about.

Resolution is the Lamb of God’s seventh release (if you count the Burn the Priest record), and finds the band not only at the apex of the scene, but also at a bit of a crossroads from a writing standpoint. It’s difficult to keep chugging out gem after gem and coming up with ideas (just ask Children of Bodom), and while Wrath was a great album, it seemed the band was possibly running a bit short on inspiration.  I was interested to hear Resolution to see if Randy Blythe had anything left in the tank. Five years of constant touring and writing were sure to have taken it’s toll, right?

Not quite. The band did a couple of things right with this release that is going to keep them cemented on the throne of metal, and the envy of bands everywhere. First, they made a conscious effort to return to their roots a bit with a more raw, rough sound with less production and more gnarl. It’s more reminiscent of New American Gospel-era than the last couple of records, but still shows a ton of growth. You can tell that the band practiced the shit out of these tracks to pull them off with aggression and precision on each and every note.

Secondly, the band stepped outside of the box a bit with an experimentation or two along the way – but we’ll get to that a bit later. For now, let’s just get into this fucker track by track.

“Straight For The Sun” opens the disc with a haunting, morose guitar line and a few trademark Blythe blood-curling screams that serves as an intro to the “Desolation.” Desolation is the epitome of meat-and-potatoes Lamb of God with machine gun blasts of drums, anvil-heavy guitars. Blythe screams, grunts and growls his way through a perfectly-structured track that sets the tone for the rest of the disc.

The first single comes in the form of “Ghost Walking”, which was made available as a download to fans that pre-ordered the disc. The twangy acoustic guitar intro teases at a slower track, but the power and intelligence is undeniable as the band thrashes their way through one of their stronger efforts on the album. The track has a familiar vibe to “Redneck” off of Wrath, but the lyrical content is stronger, and the guitars pound a little more ferociusly. It is as raw as anything we’ve heard in years from the band, and it sounds absolutely wonderful.

“Guilty” borders on the frenetic, but fuses in just enough of a groove element to keep it from straying too far off the path. John Campbell’s bass line carries the track from start to finish, and some elongated yells from Blythe add amazing effect.

Ashes of the Wake was personally my favorite Lamb of God album, and “The Undertow” sounds like it could have just as easily been on that album as this one. Sharing the guitar duties has never been a problem for shredders Mark Morton and Willie Adler, and this track shows just how well they mesh together. It’s a throwback, but the energy of the vocals and jackhammer drumming of Chris Adler keep it sounding fresh.

One of the true highlights of Resolution is “The Number Six.” While not the most original song title (it’s the sixth track on the record), it is filled with both complexity and simplicity.  The structure borders on progressive at times, the guitars are intricate, and the vocals are genius. Even the sing-a-long chorus of “You dug your own grave!” comes across as pretty genuine.  Campbell’s bass again steals a bit of the thunder – but that’s a good thing. He’s been the most disregarded member of the band from critics, so it’s nice to see him get a few moments in the spotlight.

“Barbarosa” is a softer, more methodical bass and guitar interlude that stretches over nearly two minutes, which allows the listener the perfect opportunity to catch their breath, light their cigarette and take a short pause from the onslaught the first six tracks represented, but quickly gives way to more of the same pummeling force in the way of “Invictus.” I mentioned before that the time spent practicing is obvious on this record, and this track is the perfect example. The shifting time signatures are tricky, but the band hits every note and beat right on the nail. It’s not something that many will notice, but precision begets excellence, and I – for one – wouldn’t feel right not pointing it out here.

“Cheated” comes pretty close to being just a flat-out old-school speed metal song, but it wouldn’t be Lamb of God without the occasional chugga-chugga fill, and using it sparingly makes for one of the more obvious headbangers on the disc.

The pace slows a touch for “Insurrection” which adds an element never before heard on a Lamb of God track – Randy Blythe singing clean vocals. That’s right – America’s best growler channels his inner Bruce Dickenson for a few bars of actual singing. Fear not, it doesn’t last very long (and it wasn’t half bad) before he gets right back to his screams, but this kind of expansion shows that the band is hellbent to not rest on their laurels and aren’t afraid to take a chance by going ‘outside the box’. It wasn’t the best track on the album, but definitely grabs your attention.

The ‘best’ track of the collection is “Terminally Unique.” Metal songs just don’t get written this well very often – and when they come along they deserve a little attention. This masterpiece will get plenty of that. I was sure that “Master of Puppets” would be my favorite metal song until the day I died, but that is no longer the case. There is a simplicity to this song that just digs a hole through your brain. Everyone is on point and the band delivers the track with a fury and darkness that you won’t soon forget. It’s evil and passion wrapped up tight with a bloody tourniquet, and the band truly outdid themselves here.

There hasn’t been a lot of true “groove metal” songs here, but “To The End” delivers a very Sacrament/Wrath sounding song that is heavy on beat and vibe. Complicated structures give way to more of a straightforward approach, and cymbal crashes and guitar solos rule the roost. On any other LoG album, this would stand out, but here it is more of a compliment to the other outstanding tracks.

“Visitation” is a recommended listen to all metal fans, but especially to anyone that wants to hear metal drumming done right. Adler is perfect here, and shows why he is widely considered one of the best in class. In fact, as time has passed, everyone in this band has slowly gained consideration as being the best at their instruments – and there’s a lot of truth to that. I can’t think of many bands that are as talented at each and every station as these Virginians are, and when they all come together, it goes without saying how massive they can sound.

A perfect example of this is the album’s closing track “King Me.” Lately, Lamb of God had made it a point to finish up their records with one of the albums strongest efforts, and Resolution is no different. From the operatic vocals to the orchestral string arrangement, the band plays the ‘epic’ card and throws in everything possible here. Spoken vocals, guitar crunch after guitar crunch, deep gutteral growls, prolonged ear-splitting screams – it’ all here. It’s metal’s best band at their finest (although Terminally Unique still rates as MY favorite song), and when it’s all said and done you’re left numb, speechless, and gasping for breath. Even Blythe shows his exhaustion at the end with a few hard exhales, finishing off an effort of monster proportions.

It’s far too early to crown a best album of 2012, but the bar has definitely been set at lofty – and possibly unobtainable – heights for the competition. Lamb of God have once again succeeded, amidst the naysayers, in recording a masterful record. It may have lacked the shine of recent records, but made up for it with a sincere delivery and raw energy that will keep the band on the top of the heap for years to come.

9.5/10

Tracklist:
01 – Straight For The Sun
02 – Desolation
03 – Ghost Walking
04 – Guilty
05 – The Undertow
06 – The Number Six
07 – Barbaraosa
08 – Invictus
09 – Cheated
10 – Insurrection
11 – Terminally Unique
12 – To The End
13 – Visitation
14 – King Me

Buy at Amazon

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